Therefore, these associations representing local and regional authorities in the EU organized themselves to prepare a formal communication to the Working Group on Subsidiarity for the Plenary Session of the European Convention. These associations representing local and regional authorities in the EU described their concerns and suggested how powers need to be more widely shared among all levels of public and private sector authorities. This sharing would also need to include Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs).
This EU Association of Regional and Local Authorities sees local and regional authorities as key stakeholders in the EU decision making systems . Modern governance requires a strong partnership between all levels of government, as well as with other actors. Some issues with a clear European priority, such as Trans-European cooperation need to be dealt with more flexibility, following new methods of governance. Therefore, the Convention should find the means of reconciling the involvement of the local and regional authorities, which are the closest to the citizens.
The Communication Report goes on to point out that local and regional authorities should be a powerful voice to promote the actions that the European Convention selects for the future development of Europe. The EU’s debate concerning the future of Europe among its member nations has framed this issue of achieving subsidiarity parity for regional and local entities participation in the European Council’s policy and decision making processes . Subsidiarity is ultimately the question of centralization verses decentralization.
This debate is one that can never be completely resolved because democracy and sovereignty applies to governance that can span multiple levels of government and private sector authorities. The expansion of the EU as a political entity and as an expanded market has become a model for political and economic reform in these independent states and nations of the former Soviet Union . Already several Eastern European countries have reformed their public administration governance and economies to be accepted as members in the EU community this year.
The rest are working toward possible future acceptance into the EU or at least to become trusted trading partners with the EU. The changes that must be entertained to this end have significant impact on regional and local levels of authorities in many European nations and their relations with the EU . There are several reasons why regional and local communities of Eastern Europe can benefit from researching, analyzing, and evaluating the EU situation. First, the EU represents a major world market.
EU is comprised of a wide variety of national markets. The EU is one of the closest and by far the largest Western trading partner to Eastern Europe. Many Eastern European countries look upon the EU as a major under-tapped open market. For example, Ukraine’s trade with EU members accounts for about 20% of Ukraine’s foreign trade. Most of that trade is import trade rather than export trade, resulting in a net negative trade balance for Ukraine. The EU markets present a large potential for growth in Ukraine and its standard of living in the future .
Secondly, the EU along with the Organization for Economic Cooperative Development (OECD) and its other associate organizations has already done extensive research and analysis about the market cultures and requirements of its present and most likely future members. The EU has also done extensive research and analysis of many its associate trading partners. Most importantly, the EU shares the results and guidance of their research and analysis freely with Eastern European countries.
Therefore, the EU provides a model as well as valuable, useful, and ready source of knowledge for regional and local economic development authorities in Eastern European countries to use in order to calibrate needed changes in their own public administration and economic development programs . However, there is a certain impasse for regional and local economic development authorities in Eastern European countries and help from the EU. Normally, the EU and its associate organizations such as the OECD work directly with countries primarily at the national level .
This is mainly a national sovereignty issue, but this limitation does work against subsidiarity. Nevertheless, these development organizations do readily share information and research results with regional and local authorities.
References: Brzezinski, Zbigniew (1997): A Geostrategy for Eurasia. In: Foreign Affairs Vol. 76 Iss. 5 (Sept. /Oct. 1997), p. 50 Davies, Norman (1996): Europe. A History. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press 1996.